The Mission: Impossible films are superbly crafted spy thrillers that have established themselves as indelible and essential action flicks. But while the films all sport gripping storylines and all-star casts, the franchise has become best known for its jaw-dropping set-pieces – thanks in no small part to star Tom Cruise's willingness to do his own stunts amid the most incredible-looking backdrops.
As expected, there looks to be some more mind-blowing set pieces in the upcoming Mission: Impossible – Fallout. In preparation for the upcoming instalment, it's only fair that we give you six of the most memorable action scenes from the franchise.
1. Wire hang – Mission: Impossible (1996)
It may not look like much compared to the mammoth stunts you'll find in more recent M:I instalments. But if it wasn't for this scene, where Cruise as IMF operative Ethan Hunt hacks a CIA computer located inside a heavily protected room, the franchise probably wouldn't have enjoyed the longevity it has.
There's many things that make the scene so riveting – whether it's the bead of sweat that falls from Hunt's brow and almost blows the whole operation or the fact that the whole room looks like something ripped from Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. (No doubt director and visual stylist Brian De Palma did this deliberately.)
But what really elevates this scene through the laser-laced ceiling is Cruise's stunt work, which he performed entirely by himself without the aid of a double. What we didn't know at the time was that Cruise was only just getting started.
2. Mountain climb – Mission: Impossible II (2000)
As movie openings go it doesn't really get much better than this one. The scene sees Cruise scale a huge, vertiginous cliff at Dead Horse Point in Utah, more than 2,000 feet above sea level.
Sweeping wide shots drive home just how high up Cruise is on the vast mountainside. He's just a speck on the rock when we first find him as the fearless Hunt. Again, this scene is astonishingly all Cruise, and while he did wear a harness (you'd be a bit mad not to), and there were plenty of safety precautions in place during filming, that doesn't take away from the football-size cojones the megastar displays in the scene.
3. Chesapeake Bay Bridge – Mission: Impossible III (2006)
By no means is this the first film to put a great big bridge at the centre of the action, and nor will it be the last. But in true style, everything here gets turned up to 11. For once, though, Cruise's stunt work isn't the centre of attention.
Instead, the scene focuses on the complete obliteration of Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Bridge as swathes of seriously armed mercenaries sweep in to rescue the film's primary villain, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from Hunt's IMF team. There are a couple of cool Cruise moments – like when he leaps across a large gap in the bridge, in slow motion, of course – but this is one scene that's actually more memorable for the destruction of its location rather than the acrobatic wonderments of the film's leading man.
4. Burj Khalifa – Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
What a marvel the Burj Khalifa is. The Dubai skyscraper stands over 2,700 feet tall at 160 stories-high and, at the time when Ghost Protocol shot in 2010, dwarfed all other man-made structures. It's only natural that daredevil extraordinaire Tom Cruise would want to climb the thing. And climb it he does.
The excuse for this one being that Hunt needs to gain access to a server room within the monumental skyscraper, but can only do so by climbing in through an outside window that's 11 stories higher. That's cool and all, but how Cruise gets down from there is why you'd want to go back for repeat viewings. That said, if you're scared of heights you might want to give this one a miss.
5. Cargo plane – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
Remember when we said movie openings don't get much better than Mission: Impossible II? Well, Rogue Nation is certainly a contender.
The lowdown? Hunt needs to acquire a very important package that's located inside an Airbus 400. Arriving a tad late, however, Hunt has just missed his chance to get inside the plane while it was stationary. So, what does he do? He hitches a ride on the outside of the plane.
The scene is a pretty cool way to kick off the fifth film in the franchise – and utilises one hell of a set piece. But knowing that Cruise did the stunt himself, with no CGI (albeit with the aid of a harness, unsurprisingly), makes this scene all the more impressive.
6. Lightning storm skydive/Helicopter pursuit – Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
There looks to be two contenders for most amazing set piece in the newest M:I instalment. The first sees Cruise skydive from a plane in pursuit of baddie August Walker (Henry Cavill) during a lightning storm, and although we don't know a whole lot about this scene, what we do know is the stunt was undertaken by Cruise and Cavill no less than 106 times. That's 106 times out of a plane travelling at 220 mph over 80,000 feet in the air. Talk about commitment to the craft.
Cruise also takes the stuntman's place in what looks like another incredible set piece, which involves a mid-air chopper chase between Hunt and Walker amid the backdrop of a New Zealand mountain range. Seriously Tom, you need to stop – you're going to put the whole stunt industry out of business.
Liam Turner is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.